If the Gosselins wanted the alleged cheating issue off the table, they’ve gotten their wish. Unfortunately, the dialogue about “Jon & Kate Plus 8” has shifted to a subject that’s almost (if not more) troubling: Whether the “Plus 8” are being exploited.
Of course they are.
Look no further than the show’s title for the most obvious evidence. The “Plus 8,” who are every bit as responsible for the show’s success as their dubiously motivated parents, have been reduced to a single unit. It’s essential to headline writing and show marketing, but who can name them all? It just doesn’t feel right that Cara, Mady, Alexis, Hannah, Aaden, Collin, Leah and Joel get none of the benefits and all of the objectification that comes with unscripted programming. Worse yet, they aren’t totally willing participants.
It’s possible that abject de-personalization for the sake of commercialization might preserve some shred of the kids’ anonymity. (Is there any need to really get to know a 5-year-old who isn’t related to you? No.) But, any silver lining here is wiped away by the fact that cameras follow their every move.
Kate’s brother Kevin Kreider and his wife Jodi expressed their concern to CBS’ “The Early Show.” “They’re being viewed as a commodity,” said Kevin.
“Unfortunately, there are no laws protecting children in reality TV shows ... These children are very aware of the cameras in their homes. The home is their workplace. This is not a healthy environment for kids to be raised in,” said Jodi.
Well, that’s not true since there are laws which protect children who work, and they are applied to reality shows (and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor is looking into it, with the full cooperation of TLC). Remember “Kid Nation?” There were similar complaints about violations of labor laws, especially when it came to hours worked and supervision, and they didn’t hold up.
Which leaves the “commodity” part of the argument. In the past, Kate has justified their participation, saying, “This is how we’re going to provide for them.” The Gosselins reportedly make $25,000 to $75,000 per episode, not to mention perks that come their way. But if the kids’ participation counts as actual work (and if the Dept. of Labor is involved it stands to reason that’s true), then the kids should be getting compensated via a trust, which would be the case if we were talking about any responsibly managed child actor. (Reps for TLC did not respond to the trust question by press time.)
Although it might be possible to treat the eight Gosselin kids more fairly, the idea that the exploitation question rests in the details of a W-2 is as unctuous as the concept of exploitation itself. After all, it’s most likely that effects of having their lives played out on a reality show will last longer than the contents of their bank accounts.
Tickets for Obama show have ‘come and gone’
The Obama effect found its way to Broadway with substantial brevity. Within 24 hours of Barack and Michelle Obama’s attending the May 30 performance of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” “advance sales have doubled,” says show publicist Philip Renaldi.
The Obamas might have had a hand in extending the life of the August Wilson show. During the May 18-24 week, the most recent for which sales figures are available, the 1,018-seat Belasco theater, was filled to only 64.5 percent capacity, and grossed $256,298, according to Playbill.com. As a point of comparison, “South Pacific,” which has a comparable seating capacity of 1,041, grossed $869,244, and a sold-out show such as “Wicked,” grossed $1,416,179.
Renaldi was thrilled with the Obama effect on “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” He only wishes it could be extended, say, to the Tony Awards. “If only we could get them to host The Tonys. Then they could truly save Broadway.”
Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.